Monday, April 4, 2005

Saudis Take on al-Qaida

There are unconfirmed reports of a major battle raging in Saudi Arabia between government troops and al Qaida mujahideen in the town of Al-Raas.

There's a bit more information on the battle at the link.

Atheists Convene

A CNSNews report tells us of a gathering of about one hundred atheists from California to Connecticut in Philadelphia over Easter weekend to discuss issues of interest to those who call themselves "Godless Americans" and to plan activities to advance their cause. Several items in the report caught our eye. One was a sentence that noted that:

While the 31st National Convention of American Atheists had no official theme, one topic that came up often during the event was the future of "nonbelievers," as well as what's ahead for atheism itself.

The future of nonbelievers is indeed an interesting theological question about which the New Testament has some disquieting things to say, but we suspect that that's not what those who raised the topic at the conference had in mind. If the conference attendees were concerned about the future of atheism in this world, perhaps they might have gleaned some insight from the fact that their nationwide convocation could have been held around the kitchen table.

The news account also mentioned this observation from Boston University anthropologist David Eller:

Because having a "belief" enables a person to claim something is true with no evidence to support it, Eller said he'd like to strike the word from our language altogether. "I have no beliefs," he noted.

Presumably, then, the professor lacks a belief that he has no beliefs, an odd piece of thinking for a university Ph.D. Or maybe not.

Because he works in an academic environment, Eller said he is comfortable "living from the neck up" and acknowledged that atheism "appeals only to the rational few," while religion is a "whole-body experience" that "holds onto people's hearts even as they lose their minds."

Apparently, the exalted rationality of professor Eller has yet to lead him to the realization that if materialism is true then he really has no basis for trusting his reason to lead him to truth. But never mind. There are few sensations more gratifying to an academic than the satisfaction of knowing that one is intellectually superior to one's fellows. We should avert our eyes from professor Eller's unseemly arrogance, acknowledging that the pleasure he derives from flaunting his superior rational gifts doubtless makes the practice of it irresistible for him.

Colson Critiques the Darwinian Hegemony

Chuck Colson weighs in on the Intelligent Design/Darwinism debate with an essay in Christianity Today. He notes that:

Sure, there's evidence that evolution takes place within a species-but the fossil record has not yielded evidence of one species becoming another, as Darwin confidently predicted. This lack of evidence has not gone unnoticed by sociologist Rodney Stark. Stark calls himself neither an evolutionist nor an advocate of Intelligent Design; instead, he says, he is merely a scholar pursuing the evidence where it leads. In For the Glory of God (Princeton University Press, 2003), Stark offers startling evidence that Darwinists have covered up mounting flaws in their theory.

He concludes that the battle over evolution is hardly a case of "heroic" scientists fighting off the persecution of religious fanatics. Instead, from the start, evolution "has primarily been an attack on religion by militant atheists who wrap themselves in the mantle of science in an effort to refute all religious claims concerning a creator-an effort that has also often attempted to suppress all scientific criticisms of Darwin's work."

Committed Darwinists continue this strategy today. For example, nine years ago biochemist Michael Behe published Darwin's Black Box (Free Press, 1996). Behe argued that complex structures like proteins cannot be assembled piecemeal, with gradual improvement of function. Instead, like a mousetrap, all the parts-catch, spring, hammer, and so forth-must be assembled simultaneously, or the protein doesn't work.

Behe's thesis faced a challenge from the nation's leading expert on cell structure, Dr. Russell Doolittle at the University of California-San Diego. Doolittle cited a study on bloodletting in the journal Cell that supposedly disproved Behe's argument. Behe immediately read the article-and found that the study proved just the opposite: It supported his theory. Behe confronted Doolittle, who privately acknowledged that he was wrong-but declined to make a public retraction.

So who's really rolling back the Enlightenment? Those who invite us to follow the evidence wherever it leads-or those demanding that we ignore it? The folks who want both evolution and Intelligent Design taught in school, with all their strengths and weaknesses-or those who attempt to silence any opposition?

Darwinians act like medieval clerics whose religion is under attack. The best way to preserve it is to insulate it against scrutiny. They "must not let a divine foot in the door", as Richard Lewontin famously put it. Their worst nightmare is not that natural selection will be unable to withstand careful examination as a mechanism of change, but rather that the metaphysical underpinnings of Darwinism, the dogma, for instance, that natural processes are by themselves sufficient to explain the origin and diversification of life, will dissolve in a trice once they are immersed in the acids of free inquiry.

The Darwinians are not defending their science. Indeed, it is not their science that is in question. It is the philosophical assumptions of atheistic materialism that are woven into their science that they strive to defend, and they know that, if they allow students to examine the philosophical alternatives, materialism will suffer in the comparison. No one wants to see his religion discredited, especially when, like the Darwinians, they've invested their entire professional lives in its credibility, and so they fight like desperate zealots to prevent our public schools from exposing young people to the challenges that Intelligent Design presents. Don't question, just believe is the Darwinian mantra, a mantra suitable for fundamentalist mullahs and others who fear the consequences of free and open inquiry.

Check out the rest of what Colson says at the Christianity Today site.

What the Polls Show about Schiavo

In the days leading up to the death of Terri Schiavo some commentators made much of polls which showed that those who believed that the feeding tubes should never have been removed were grossly out of step with the consensus in America. As a sociological matter the polls were not without interest, but as a means of providing moral guidance they were irrelevant. Right and wrong are not matters to be settled by consulting popular opinion polls.

Even so, it turns out that those who supported Terri's parents in their wish to keep her alive were not at variance with popular opinion after all, a fact which goes some distance toward restoring our confidence in the moral wisdom of the American people.

A Zogby poll asks this question:

"If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water?"

A whopping 79 percent said the patient should not have food and water taken away while just 9 percent said yes.

When asked directly about Terri's case and told that her estranged husband Michael "has had a girlfriend for 10 years and has two children with her" 56 percent of Americans believed guardianship should have been turned over to Terri's parents while 37 percent disagreed.

Another question asked:

"When there is conflicting evidence on whether or not a patient would want to be on a feeding tube, should elected officials order that a feeding tube be removed or should they order that it remain in place?"

Some 18 percent said the feeding tube should be removed and 42 percent said it should remain in place.

There's more on the results of the Zogby poll at the link.